Delicious, delightful, de-lovely,
This is a charming book. It’s a glass of pink champagne, sparkling and light. And in just the right amount. You are left perfectly satisifed, wanting no more, not having had a drop too much either.
Written in the late 30’s, Miss Pettigrew is a genteel, impoverished spinster in her middle years, facing destitution, and conscious of her lack of charms, small faith in her talents, and no experience of romance. Life is, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty dreary for her.
Sent by an employment agency for a position as a governess (which she knows she has no talent for anyway) she lights up on the doorstep of a delightful, amoral vamp chanteuse, her prospective employer. Miss Pettigrew is revealed to be a woman of much more spirit, open heartedness and sparky intelligence than she ever realised, and over the course of the day is whirled into a froth of decadent delight as she changes the lives of the fast set, and they change hers, for the better, to the mutual satisfaction of one and all.
Implausible escapist froth? Surely, but done with sly humour, joie de vivre and impish playfulness. Miss Pettigrew is a delightful and unexpected heroine, and the reader can’t help wanting things to come right for her; despite her unpromising potential – plain, mousy, rather dull, timid, without obvious talents (these are her own assessments) – her ability to be excited as well as a little shocked by the unexpected make her a good companion. The froth the pastiche and the sparkle are beautifully done, and finished off with excellent line drawings of the transforming Miss Pettigrew and the flirty girls and swooningly dashing chaps from the smart set. Great fun.
I enjoyed the read enormously – but can’t ignore the great part of that pleasure which came from THE BOOK AS AN OBJECT
Persephone Press are reminding us that the whole experience of reading is not just an act of imagination and reflection on ideas and abstracts, but that it can be a sensuous, luxurious experience which delights the hands, the eyes, the nose.
In fact, there is something about handling the book as a well crafted object that has a wonderful, slow-read effect, as opposed to the Kindle fast read experience. I absolutely savoured my reading of this book, and Persephone I assume are carefully matching the books they publish to their style. Miss Pettigrew is not a beach read – these pages shouldn’t be sullied with sand and suntan lotion, but accompanied by tea in fine china and a delicate patisserie – eaten with a cake fork OF COURSE to avoid nasty crumby stains on the beautiful pages, would be exquisitely just so.
Persephone rather ‘re-launched’ Watson when they republished her book in 2000. She was still living, aged 94, in Newcastle, and the success at that time of this charming book was greeted by pictures of the nonagenarian clutching her book with the by-line “Bodice-Ripping Fame At 94” The success of the book led to a film, hence the reprint again with the cover as above